James Baldwin Biography

James Baldwin Biography

African American author James Baldwin, primarily explores issues of injustice and identity. His first novel, the semi-autobiographical Go Tell it On the Mountain (1953) and his essay collections, like Notes of a Native Son (1955) are among his better-known works. 

Born in 1924 in Harlem, Baldwin never knew his biological father, his mother was impoverished, and his stepfather was abusive. Baldwin himself was gay and had to live, oppressed not only by intolerance toward his skin color, but also toward his sexuality.

To escape being pigeon-holed as a writer and as a person, Baldwin traveled to Europe in 1948, though still spent much of his life in the United States, for instance in 1957, while the Civil Rights Act was being debated in Congress. 

Facts and Trivia

  • Baldwin became a preacher at the age of fourteen and delivered sermons for three years, but he later left the church entirely.
  • Baldwin finished Go Tell It on the Mountain not in Harlem, the city of his upbringing and setting of the novel, but in Switzerland.
  • Baldwin was of great interest to the F.B.I., which purportedly held more than 1,750 files on his activities.
  • One of Baldwin’s most quoted maxims is “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”
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